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FeaturesWhy You Shouldn’t Underestimate the Rift S

Kevin Joyce2 months ago

Oculus revealed the newest virtual reality (VR) headset coming to their stable last month at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), San Francisco, and received a decidedly mixed response. As a replacement to the original Oculus Rift consumer version, launched back in 2015, many already deeply entrenched in the VR ecosystem expected a significant leap in technical specification akin to the HTC Vive Pro, however competing in a specs race isn’t where Oculus’ strengths lie: they’re pulling a Nintendo.

Rift S

The Oculus Rift S isn’t designed to bolster the existing VR audience. Instead, it’s designed to lower the barriers for entry. As a comparison, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are consoles which were designed to continue the existing format of the console market and secure its slow but healthy expansion. Oculus obviously feel that the ‘slow’ part of that equation isn’t healthy for VR, as the install base still remains relatively low. Instead, before competing on the basis of higher numbers on the back of a box, Oculus has opted for ease-of-use. They’ve gone the route of the Wii.

Oculus Rift S Technical Specifications

For arguments sake, before we get into the meat of why Oculus is making a good move for both their platform, developers and the VR industry as a whole, here’s the full breakdown of the official technical specifications of the Rift S that Oculus has officially revealed so far:

  • Display:
    • Resolution: 1,280 × 1,440 per eye (2,560 × 1,440 total)
    • Type: Single fast-switch LCD
    • Refresh Rate: 80Hz
  • Tracking:
    • Inside-out through five cameras (dubbed ‘Insight’)
    • Supports 6 degrees of freedom head and controller tracking
  • Tether:
    • Length: 5 meter
    • Connections: DisplayPort 1.2 & USB
  • External:
    • Passthrough+: Low latency stereo-correct passthrough video
    • Guardian: Boundaries ‘painted’ from inside headset using Passthrough+

Also worthy of note is the fact that the Rift S’ IPD adjustment is via software only (meaning less switches or dials on the headset itself) and the boundary set-up is ‘painted’ by the user, similar to the HTC Vive, but does not require the user to walk around the edges of the area (only point and drag from their stationary perspective).

Rift S is Easier to Set-up than Rift

Ultimately the crux of my argument, the Rift S is promising to be significantly easier to set-up and use than the original Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift may not seem to hefty a job to install to frequent PC users and technology advocates such as yourself, but to the average consumer it’s an entire evening’s worth of work. Correctly placing the Constellation trackers alone is a difficult task, and the process of calibrating them along with Oculus Touch controllers may seem like more effort than it’s worth. There are undoubtedly many potential users across the world who have opted not to take the leap simply because the set-up itself looks too complicated to even begin with.

Oculus Rift & Touch Box Rear
The Oculus Rift & Touch set requires five devices to use.

The Rift S removes so many of these barriers before we even begin to think about using the device. There’s no external trackers – which is a big deal in itself – and as mentioned above, the set-up of the Guardian system can be done by simply drawing an outline from a standing position whilst wearing the headset using Passthrough+. Oculus has gone to big efforts to make the Rift S a more ‘average’ consumer-friendly proposition, and I think they’re definitely heading in the right direction.

Oculus Rift S PC Specification Requirements

Another big falling point of the original Oculus Rift is the PC that was required to power it. At the time of launch (March 2015) a PC that could adequately power the Oculus Rift would cost approx. £1,000 GBP, and though a number of ‘VR Ready’ machines were designed, few were readily available off-the-shelf. Now however, Oculus has opted not to bring a dramatic increase to the minimum specification required for the Rift S, and as such – four years later – a PC capable of powering the device could likely be had for half the price.

Minimum

Graphics Card

NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti / AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater


Alternative Graphics Card

NVIDIA GTX 960 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater


CPU

Intel i3-6100 / AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350 or greater


Memory

8GB+ RAM


Video Output

DisplayPortTM 1.2 source, Mini DisplayPortTM to DisplayPort Adapter (with mDP to DP adapter that is included in the box)


USB Ports

1x USB 3.0 port


OS

Windows 10

Recommended

Graphics Card

NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater


Alternative Graphics Card

NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater


CPU

Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater


Memory

8GB+ RAM


Video Output

DisplayPortTM 1.2 source, Mini DisplayPortTM to DisplayPort Adapter (with mDP to DP adapter that is included in the box)


USB Ports

1x USB 3.0 port


OS

Windows 10

Compelling Reasons to Buy a Rift S

Technical issues aside, what truly compelling reason is there to buy a Rift S? Well, for existing Oculus Rift owners they aren’t many; but for newcomers to VR there’s a couple of hundred sitting right there on the Oculus Store. The Rift S is compatible with all existing Oculus Rift games and experiences, so if you can think of your someone who would really like one or two of the VR titles in your library but hasn’t yet bothered to go to the effort of jumping in, the Rift S will make it much easier for them to do so. And while that price point ($399 USD) may look like a bit of an uphill battle compared to the current Oculus Rift price ($349 USD) the ease of use may well make all the difference for many.

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